ban hate speech

The Problem With Trying to Ban Hate Speech

By now, we’ve also seen what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Despite the President not condemning it in the strongest possible terms, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has implored the white supremacists to go home. While the rally ended up being fatal to some, even more have called to ban hate speech entirely. That’s not to say what happened wasn’t horrific. It was. And to deny that running over counter-protesters is terrorism is to deny the definition of terrorism itself.  But the reality is that the political culture wars surrounding this type of event have been around for a long time. I’d even argue that radicalization online was happening even before Gamergate.

Still, the issue here is that of language, and what constitutes political speech and hate speech. As liberals, we’ve grown accustomed to softening our language. This is partly the result of media, but also the result of enforcing cultural norms online, and the subversion of that. This is because, as we’ve correctly determined, the words we use have power, and why we choose them says a lot about ourselves. But language is ultimately an ephemeral thing. The cultural norms of yesterday are the cultural taboos of today, and the hippies of yesterday are largely the conservatives of today.

That isn’t to say we need to normalize hate speech. But we can’t ban hate speech. Not unless it explicitly calls for violence. As horrific as it is for other people to think you are subhuman, you also have the right to view them as subhuman, and even tell them so. But to successfully have a society where we value free speech, we also have to have a combative society. Everyone is fighting for their right to exist, their right to set the cultural milieu to their preferred standards.

Meanwhile, we’re all be giving a raw deal. Just like in the Spanish Inquisition, the government is stirring up cultural fervor. And the only time the establishment ever tries to do this is when things aren’t going well financially. That isn’t to say Fuck White Supremacy in the strongest possible terms. But what it is saying is that rallies like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia are meant to be outrageous by design. Nobody rabble-rouses just for the sake of it.

Instead, as insubstantial as Trump’s remarks were, we should consider taking the essence of them in to consideration. We do need to get to the bottom of this. Like it or not, we need to inhabit the same country. Not the same parts of it, mind you. But the same country nonetheless. And as much as some liberals want to punch Nazis, that can only be done for so long. Eventually, we’re going to have to head back to the voting booth, and decide whether or not we want to ban hate speech altogether. And that’s where the real cultural battle will be had. Not on the streets, but with our votes.

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